Cannabis health risk: How Aussie man nearly lost a limb
An Australian man who smokes up to a gram of cannabis per day has narrowly escaped amputation after becoming the first in the country to be diagnosed with a rare disease linked to cannabis use.
After an ulcer on his toe failed to heal, the man consulted Frankston Hospital in Melbourne, where he was diagnosed with cannabis arteritis, an extremely rare disease which causes a build-up of plaque around the arteries, thereby decreasing blood flow to the limbs.
The patient, who has not been identified, was treated with a balloon angioplasty, where a collapsed balloon, known as a balloon catheter, is placed in the area which is constricted in order to inflate it to a healthy size.
He will also have to take aspirin, a blood thinner, for the rest of his life, according to reports in the Sunday Morning Herald.
Smoking cannabis can cause blood vessels to tighten, which increases resistance and contributes to an increasing amount of plaque building up around the arteries, thereby narrowing the artery itself.
Cannabis arteritis occurs when the constriction of arteries reduces blood flow to the affected limbs, which can lead to death of cells, called necrosis. Severe cases of necrosis can lead to necessary amputation.
Very similar symptoms can be seen in patients suffering from Bueger's disease, which is strongly linked to tobacco use.
Although fewer than 100 cases of the disease have ever been recorded, Dr Soon, of the Royal College of Australasian Surgeons, said medical professionals should still remain alert.
"Due to the increase in cannabis usage and the legalisation of medicinal cannabis, awareness of the condition is important and may become a growing problem in the future," he told the Annual Scientific Congress.